My best advice would include reading this Childbirth bibliography. I gleaned a lot of knowledge from those books.
For low risk moms I would definitely suggest a midwife in a birth center or at home. I know that's not available everywhere and that's a shame, but I think your best chance for letting your body do what it was designed to do happens at home. Second choice though would be with good certified nurse midwives in a hospital setting like our own Alicia. A family practice doctor who does births would be my next choice, with an OB/GYN with a low C-section rate a close runner up.
What most ladies do not realize when they see an OB/GYN is that this specialty is really a surgeon. They are trained in surgery and they are specifically trained to look for pathologies and problems in pregnancy and delivery and to treat those surgically. Most women really do not need that level of care and yet in this country that remains the norm.
If it was within my power to do so I would never just walk into the average OB/GYN "Dr. 25% C-section rate" for prenatal care and delivery.
Hire a doula! Having a knowledgeable doula at your birth can be one of your best investments. I have had a doula with me 4 times and she was absolutely instrumental in making my first VBAC a success. She does not take the place of the husband, or any best friends that might be present. In fact for a childbirth without meds, I really needed all of that support and they all worked very hard physically and mentally to help me. I would encourage a new mom to do some research and interview some doulas.
Take a childbirth class outside of what is offered at the hospital. Hospital childbirth classes are there to teach you how to be a good patient while you're there. To really learn how to give birth you need to take a course, like the one offered by Birth Works!
One technique that really helped me that I learned at a Birth Works course, was utilizing my voice in a low deep moan with each contraction. My doula helped me keep my voice low and deep and controlled. That helped me to keep from tightening the rest of my body up and let my uterus work by itself. I also learned to keep my mouth open and jaw loose which prevented me from tightening the muscles around the vagina. Go ahead, try it. Keep your mouth open and loose and it is very difficult to tighten up around your vagina at the same time! A great technique!
I'm sharing this because I really think if more women could do this, they could avoid epidurals. I had an epidural with my first son and I admit I loved it!!! I will also admit that I had no clue how to help myself through each contraction and I had a t.v. view of how awful childbirth must be! What they don't tell you when they put the needle in the back, is that the epidural will probably slow you're labor and it may drop your blood pressure and cause a lot of other interventions to be needed. For a lot of women, getting the epidural is like stepping on the conveyor belt that heads to the C-section room. Not every woman, but enough. Ask yourself, why is it that American women have a 25% C-section rate? Other mammals propagate the species just fine without surgery. For that matter, how come the rate of surgical birth continues to rise but the infant mortality and morbidity hasn't changed significantly?
Birth works also offers a short film called "Birth in the Squatting Position." That short film featuring women who are birthing their babies while standing and squatting changed my life. After the failure to deliver my first son after hours and hours of pushing, I successfully birthed even BIGGER BABIES in this natural position. No woman would ever choose to give birth on her back with her legs in the stirrups pushing up hill if left to her own instincts. This video broke those barriers for me.
Lastly, I memorized the verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I made Mr. Pete memorize it too and whisper it back to me when it I felt like quitting (which was always transition anyway). Memorize something that helps you and have your caregivers learn it and remind you too.
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